Why Play Dead?

Rethinking what used to be obvious

By Susan Milius, 15:55 PM April 15, 2008

Gary Gerald studies animal movement, so when two female brown snakes in the lab had babies, he wanted to see them in motion. He watched them crawling on a solid surface, then moved the youngsters to water in a modified gutter. But the system didn't work as planned for the newborn snakes.

"I would pick the little guys up and drop them right in the water, and right when I dropped them, they flipped upside down. They stayed motionless. Their bodies were rigid so if you touched one part, they'd s...

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